The authorities want new land to build residential neighborhoods and urban works. The “northern capital” has problems similar to those of Venice. Environmentalists protest. Experts recommend configuring new neighborhoods and residential areas taking into account the environmental reality of the city.
Saint Petersburg () – The city’s development plan includes the “recovery of the north” (severnyj namyv), a large-scale mechanized process for the hydraulic placement of high-density earth. The objective is to obtain new spaces in which to build residential neighborhoods and urban works, since the development of the “northern capital” is limited by the waters that surround and cross it.
The decision has provoked strong reactions from the citizens of St. Petersburg: protest committees have been formed to ask the Municipal Legislative Assembly to cancel the recovery plan. Local authorities opened the issue to public debate, which ended on August 24. However, they have not clarified some questions: the activists fear that the compaction of the land could cause serious flooding, which would seriously endanger the historic neighborhoods of the city center.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Peter the Great had St. Petersburg built as a “city on water” at the cost of enormous effort and the sacrifice of many lives. The tsar wanted a “window on Europe” to counter the rise of the Baltic and Scandinavian powers, and he had committed all the human and material resources of the population to achieve his goal.
The greatest difficulty was in terracing the area to prevent the advance of the waters, which run from the Neva estuary and flow into the Baltic Sea. Now, the embankment system threatens to encroach on Vasilevsky Ostrov, the tip of the island in the gulf from whose bridges the center with the Liberation Square (and of the 1917 revolution) and the Hermitage imperial palace, which currently houses, extends. to one of the most important art museums in the world.
The issue becomes dramatic in these times of climate change and threats to the ecosystem. The debate has long focused on how to save the historical parts of the “city of St. Peter”, a Russian “new Rome” loaded with symbolism. Some of the projects are reminiscent of the problems with the MOSE system in Venice, a model for all the aquatic capitals of Northern Europe. In 1975, at the height of the Brezhnev era, the authorities had launched a competition for the recovery of the island districts of Vasilevsky and Dekabristov, which was won by the legendary architect Nikolaj Baranov, who died in 1989.
Now Baranov’s project is back in the news, as it provides for a conditioning of the area that celebrates the victory of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and the sacrifice of the long siege of Leningrad. A new theme park and a large granite monument are planned to open, to be connected to the Armenian cemetery in the area. The project includes a land recovery plan, in order to create a compact land between the islands, in which to open the Parque de la Victoria.
Baranov’s grandiose plan was only partially realized, since it was blocked after the end of the USSR, although it was never officially cancelled. Work is currently being resumed, but in a distorted way, and many consider that the area assigned to the recovery plan is not sustainable. The accusation of the activists is that there is also an attempt to use the war rhetoric, so much in vogue, to favor scenarios of great speculation, with the risk of an ecological catastrophe.
It should be noted that the specialists confirm the fears of the protesters. For example, Semen Gordyševskij, president of the Citizens’ Committee for Ecological Safety, maintains that “the damage would be inevitable, the new buildings would modify the climatic processes of the entire city, and the birds, the fish, the microorganisms, the vegetation would disappear… Today urban or architectural plans cannot be made without taking into account the environmental impact”.
According to experts, new neighborhoods and housing areas can be built, but you have to know how to “model” them according to the surrounding environmental reality. And currently, it seems, this model is not available. It is about the future of a big city, but also about the future of the entire planet.